The next Batman cartoon, 2004’s “The Batman,” followed the more serious tone of the “animated series.” However, it also has a sleek, modern sheen (art direction provided by Jeff Matsuda) that’s very different from the gothic “dark decor” of the previous collection. Despite the differences, it’s a great show in its own right: I especially liked the reinvented Riddler, voiced by Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund.
“Batman: The Bold and the Bold,” on the other hand, takes a lighter, more comedic approach. Batman is voiced by Diedrich Bader (voiced by Adam West), and the series is filled with visual cues from the 1966 “Batman” series. However, it’s not as shoddy as the early Batman cartoons. Instead, it mixes self-aware humor with a genuine love for the weirdest parts of the DC Universe.
In the “The Brave and the Bold” episode “Legends of the Dark-Mite”, Bat-Mite visits a convention where Batman fans break the fourth wall. As he clamored for something resembling an “animated series” to disgruntled fans, he declared: “Batman’s rich history allows him to be interpreted in a variety of ways. It’s a lighter incarnation, to be sure, but it’s certainly no less Effective and authentic goes deeper into a character’s roots than a tortured avenger crying for mom and dad.”
The lesson of “Batman: The Animated Series” isn’t that Batman cartoons need to be dark to be good. What they really need are artists who care about what they’re making.